This has been one of the most traumatic week of my life time. A mob attack from within!!!
A few weeks back, 7 girls rescued by Gopalapuram police,Secunderabad were admitted in our shelter through court order. In just 3 days we were uncomfortable with these women, there was something sinister about them. This was further reinforced when 30 other girls who were cheery and full of life, willing to learn new trades started showing signs of hostility. In a few hours we realized that these were 7 traffickers posing as victims…in essence infiltrators and the 30 girls belonged to their gang.
I immediately informed the concerned court, and the magistrate was clueless on what has to be done as the police had shown these women as victims in their FIR.
Although we were alert and for weeks together there was no sign of any trouble…what we did not realize is that a huge conspiracy was being hatched.
Last week on Durgashtami day, these 37 instigated another 100 and mobbed the shelter from within…unimaginable violence, 5-6lakh worth property was damaged(truck, tata sumo all vehicles including) and 16 people were injured including 4 staff. As the girls slashed others with broken pieces of glasses and stoned the shelter…over 300 others were shivering with fright and praying for their lives.
They had planned to do this on a day when I am not in town and they had presumed that I was traveling to Delhi. Unfortunately for them my plans had changed and I was very much in the city. I was able to mobilize police support and start from Hyderabad immediately(shelter is 65 kms from Hyderabad). With the timely support of the local police who mobilized force from nearby stations we were able to control the mob within the campus. I shudder to think, even if one girl had come out of the campus…what a field day media would have had and what all I will have to answer! Much later I came to know that media was already informed and they were desperately waiting for some news outside…a district addition did go ahead and print something about fishy happenings inside our shelter…
It has taken 6 days and 6 nights for me to bring back some sense of hope and confidence in 450 women and children living in our therapeutic community. I had to speak to each one of them…and 90% of them were traumatized by what they saw…and kept repeating they always thought our shelter was much more safer than their own homes…but today they are scared and feel at a dead end…if not this place…where can they go?
Between all this deep within me there unbearable pain and anguish. I wonder every moment now on the truths I unraveled during this time:
-The fact that the Gopalpuram police knew these were traffickers and yet send them to our shelter especially when all these girls were supposed to give their statement in the court next week and the police is aware of it. When I confronted the police their logic was if we send them to jail they will get bail and they will become even more hardened, atleast in Prajwala we are sure they will get reformed. Was it compliment or connivance I wonder?
-The fact that Prajwala is the only licensed home for such specialized care for sex trafficked victims both in Telangana & Andhra Pradesh. And police from all over India just keep dumping girls on our head through court orders. There is not a single Government run shelter home for this cause. Where is the state accountability to deal with this problem?
-The fact that Centrally sponsored Ujjwala scheme is a disaster to say the least. The scheme does not even acknowledge both in word and action that sex trafficking is an organized crime and homes getting this scheme should get adequate/proportionate security. The implementation and disbursement is even more pathetic…consequently 80% of fraudulent NGO’s are only accessing the scheme.
-The fact that in this country there is no victim witness protection scheme which can ensure that all victim witnesses in these cases are provided adequate protection post their stay in safe house….so what is their fate when they leave our shelters? And therefore why should they testify at all? State does not protect them…I can give only for a limited period of time….and the perpetrators thanks to our brilliant criminal justice system will get a bail and will be waiting for the victim outside my shelter as soon as she is out!
Today I am feeling so choked and frustrated…there is only so much I can do as an individual and an organization. The State neither acknowledges this problem nor is willing to place resources to fight this crime…
We at one end struggle with resource crunch…at another fight the sex mafia but the biggest fight is against the society and State for its apathy and rejection.
After rescuing 12,000 girls from prostitution and attempting to rehabilitate and reintegrate them I am still wondering…will I ever make an impact?